Reviews

The Way to Peace Reviews

This debut album, The Way to Peace, has singer/ pianist Rich Siegel proving himself a formidable musi- cian with an expressive, rich baritone. The emotional and spiritually-fueled songs of love and peace on this multi-lingual disc convey various themes of hope and world peace, with a decided focus on the Mid-East and messages of healing and politics. That seems to be his intent.

Some of the songs border on hymn-like structure, appealingly universal in their somewhat cantor- esque delivery and message. There are many spiri- tual themes about children and God that run through- out this almost religious- experience recording. It’s also deeply personalized about a man’s truth and his beliefs. Musically, Siegel is aided by brilliant London- based jazz saxophonist and well-known peace activist Gilad Atzmon heading a team of superior artists that also has cellist Eugene Moye, guitarist Gary Ciuci, bassist Cameron Brown and drummer Anthony Pinciotti. Collectively, they are brilliant in supporting Siegel’s fine vocals with flair. His own musicianship is always on target and easy to listen to. This is especially so on John Wallowitch’s beauty, “This Moment.” “Help Is on the Way” is a unique track paired with “Nuestra Ayuda Ligara” in English, Spanish and Arabic, making for a most interesting and melodic presentation. As throughout this collec- tion, which explores political-pacifist statements, Siegel’s sincerity dominates. While the foreign lan- guage songs might limit his audience and distribution of an album that should be heard by many, those in English are often trenchant and deeply moving, as on one of the CDs finest, the beloved “What a Wonder- ful World” that includes an extended haunting solo by the gifted Atzmon. This version, which could give Tony Bennett a run for his money, will invite many to press the repeat button. It’s a superb reading of a song that has been recorded to death by so many. Siegel’s heartfelt take on this evergreen is worth the purchase price and more. Space limitations forbid expanding on his more intricate and complicated messages inherent to this album. Suffice to say, a lot of territory is covered and Mr. Siegel is a risk-taker worthy of a listen.

The Way to Peace is bucolic in its message of hope in a world that too often lacks understanding and com- mon sense as it loses its way. Incidentally, his song “In Palestine” went viral on YouTube. As Wallowitch put it, “… I only hope that time will be your friend.” That, alone, may sum up the philosophy of this disc. This is a memorable album from a deeply sincere artist who sends out a devastating and haunting message that is simply from the heart.
— John Hoglund

Review of Rich Siegel’s album  “The Way to Peace” By Brent Black, Critical Jazz

Perhaps the greatest joy in writing about music and predominately jazz in particular would have to be taking the occasional sonic path less traveled. Had someone told me two years ago I would have been reviewing the work of an anti-Zionist peace activist, a request that this individual be drug tested would be the expected response from those few that travel in my inner circle.

The Way To Peace is not a political manifesto in the strictest sense of the word but instead I will allow Siegel’s words to speak for him:

³I sought a marriage of spirituality and peace activism, combining my originals with some extraordinary cover material, notably by New York composer Kirk Nurock and Lebanese composer Ahmad Kaabour, as well as others.²
From a purely musical perspective, Siegel is a gifted instrumentalist with rich vocals that glide effortlessly along with his playing. http://www.criticaljazz.com/ is actually an outgrowth from some inspiration found in of all places – facebook. Having rather outspoken and often (not always) conservative views on the subject of the Palestinian state, I am long on record as encouraging artists to stay away from such incendiary topics as faith, politics and sexual orientation when it comes to social media. The reasoning for an artist to stay away from such potentially damaging topics is not to squash an opposing point of view or monopolize a public forum but from a practical standpoint of alienating a large segment of one’s audience.

The one piece of advice given to me by a former editor of separating the individual from the artist probably best rings true from this perspective. Rich Siegel is and what he sings about. For this reason alone, The Way of Peace is a stellar recording.

If an artist is to give of them self in a form of expression be it music, painting or sculpture then all you can ask for is an honest shared perspective. You can respect an opinion and disagree with it. To oversimplify Siegel’s music as that of the “peace movement” would be disingenuous at best. Instead Siegel presents us with an eloquently stated, musically pristine offering of himself and shares a piece of what is in his heart.

Isn’t that what art is all about?

“Rich Siegel’s The Way To Peace, his debut solo, was released in December last year on Way To Peace Records. Siegel is a pianist singer-songwriter, cabaret and jazz artist well known on the New York scene.

For The Way To Peace, Siegel assembled a most formidable line-up, playing in various combinations. Most notable here is the finest jazz saxophonist of our age, the always controversial London based Gilad Atzmon, also renowned for his relentless peace activism. The rest are well known New Yorkers, cellist Eugene Moye, guitarist Gary Ciuci, bassist Cameron Brown and drummer Anthony Pinciotti. Ensemble playing is always flawless, and particularly Atzmon’s soloing is as outstanding as one would expect from this great musician. Siegel himself is both an outstanding pianist and vocalist and is truly impressive indeed.

An obviously very brave man, Siegel is also intensely spiritual. His aim with The Way To Peace was to combine this spirituality with peace activism, with truth telling, truth that cannot be told often enough. Siegel’s sincerity shines all the way through this album.

Of the twelve tracks, seven are Siegel originals, some of them with various other lyricists, some based on traditional, including biblical, material. The rest are covers of songs by renowned composers including a previously un-released song by the author of Michael Jackson’s Got To Be There, the late Elliot Willensky, New York composer Kirk Nurock, Lebanese composer Ahmad Kaabour, the late New York cabaret artist and composer John Wallowitch, and others. The lyrics also feature Spanish, Hebrew and Arabic in addition to English. The Way To Peace combines jazz and cabaret music with lyrics principally about peace, justice, and a better world for all, and it does so with integrity, sincerity, truth and charisma, and does so successfully through beautiful songs. Like Atzmon, Siegel is a genuine seeker of truth and beauty.

While here and there, touches of Atzmon’s more usual material can be found -there is, for example, an intro almost straight out of Jenin and The Tide Has Changed on Shams El Aghani – often, Atzmon reveals a whole new aspect to himself on this album. He frequently veers into what is best described as the most beautiful, Grover Washington Jr. type smooth jazz territory. It is gorgeous, and works beautifully with the songs. But that is Atzmon, always something new and surprising.

The songs also include a beautiful new mix of Siegel/Lippman’s In Palestine, which went ‘viral’ on YouTube. This presents probably the most outspoken, most moving and most controversial lyrics. (But truth has a knack for being controversial. Especially where Israel/occupied Palestine is concerned.) However, it would be as impossible to single this track out as it would be any other as a ‘strongest’ or favourite track. The Way To Peace is far too consistent an album for that.

Not only has Siegel achieved his aim of combining a message for peace with his spirituality but in the process he has come up with a gorgeous album that is more than compelling and that bristles with the naked truth and beauty. A deeply haunting beauty that is most memorable.

Rich Siegel’s The Way To Peace should be heard by everyone, for the truth always needs to be heard, no matter how inconvenient or unpalatable. And yes, the way to peace, is peace. Get this!”

© 2012 Rainlore’s World of Music/Rainlore. All rights reserved.
Rich Sharm Review

Written by Chuck Duaphin
May 16, 2012

“If you look at his web site, Rich Siegel’s talents are listed as a Pianist, a Vocalist, A Musical Director, a Composer, and a Lyricist, among others. He is definitely a man of many talents, and handles each in an impeccable manner.
But, above all that, Rich Siegel is a man who is trying to make a difference. This package is full of twelve songs that are designed to make the world – and those who inhabit it – a better place.

Starting off with the piano jazz of “This Moment,” Siegel impresses from the start with his warm and inviting vocal approach. The lyrics are just as strong, as well. Ditto that for the very impressive “The Way To Peace.” You can tell that this is a man whose passion is wrapped around making each line of this song a reality.

While the title cut and the sweetly-written “How Do We Teach The Children” are the highlights here, the album is chock full of lessons about getting along with each other and the hope that one day, peace can be a reality. A very great lesson for us all!”

Written by Jonathon Blakeley – deLiberation.info – Thursday, April 26th, 2012

The Way to Peace is the debut album from Rich Siegel and is a collection of piano based songs about religion, politics, & spirituality. I am more a free-jazz, Bebop kind of a guy at heart, so Rich’s album is a bit of a change for me. That being said, it has strong inspiring message of Unity and Peace underpinning it all, that everyone can empathise with. Rich is a great piano tickler and his music is deep and thought provoking which he conveys with his a strong emotive voice.

This album is creative melting pot with many people contributing songs, lyrics and arrangements. The Way to Peace is the first track to be written by Rich Siegel, where he ponders the nature of peace and how it may progress.
The Way to peace is to live and let live, It’s to be and simply let be, The way to peace is to dwell In that knowledge For it is the truth that will set you free.

I suppose the common theme connecting this album together is the existential questioning, and self-doubt about the world and where it is going. Noble sentiments indeed…

My purpose in recording it (“Shams el Aghani”) is to make a statement as an American Jew singing in Arabic about the experience of Palestinian refugees”

My favourite songs on the album are Shams el Aghani & In Palestine. Shams el Aghani has some great soloing by the ubiquitous Gilad Atzmon & both tracks stand out as being much more eastern in their sound and style.

“In Palestine” is slightly controversial as it digs deeper into the myth and justifications for Israel’s occupation of Palestine. The song considers the various arguments, justifications and blame that is cast, but at the end of the day children are still dying in Palestine and with frightening regularity. You can’t argue with that.

Well is true we’ve been hated But when we arrive And take over their country is it any wonder that peace cannot thrive While the children are dying in Palestine”

deep & thought-provoking…

Link to Review

A Musical CD, “The Way to Peace” reviewed by John Spritzler, newdemocracyworld.org

The Way to Peace is a CD of twelve songs sung by Rich Siegel accompanying himself on the piano, and with, in some songs, Gilad Atzmon (woodwinds), Gary Ciuci (guitar), Cameron Brown (bass) and Anthony Pinciotti (drums). The lyrics are clearly intended to be taken very seriously, and they range from reflections on universal themes of the human condition in some songs, to very topical and political message-lyrics in other songs. The song, “In Palestine,” for example, contains these lyrics: “You tell me all peoples need land of their own. All the others have theirs, why not leave us alone?”

Rich Siegel sings with passion and a very good voice. The musical accompaniment is excellent. At least this is the opinion of this reviewer, who is admittedly not musically talented or particularly knowledgable about music.
To the extent that the political content is explicit, it is commendably anti-Zionist. And the songs about the universal human condition commendably elebrate the positive aspects of people.

I do have trouble with the lyrics. They tackle issues that cannnot be truly understood except in a framework that identifies the chief conflict in the world–the conflict between the great majority of people who value equality and mutual aid and democracy versus the privileged, wealthy and powerful ruling elites (including Zionist leaders) who have the opposite values. But the framework used by the lyrics ignores this conflict.

Thus, the third song, “The Way to Peace,” has lyrics that say, “The way to peace is peace” and “The way to peace is to live and let live.” It has a preachy tone, to my ear; it seems to be blaming the reality of war and violence on ordinary people not understanding that “the way to peace is peace, to live and let live.” I disagree with this view.

I think that the violence in the world is the violence of class conflict over what values should shape it, and the blame falls not on ordinary people but on the ruling elites who oppress people. The way to peace is for those who value equality and mutual aid and democracy to defeat–with violence when necessary–those who attack those values. The peace we need is the peace that can only come from a successful revolution against the oppressive rulers of the world. This CD just doesn’t seem to grasp this important point.

Review of Rich Siegel’s album “The Way to Peace”, by Chris Spector

Interesting little record that you think fit’s the format but really doesn’t. Coming in with a theatrical/folkie/cabaret vibe, Siegel sends out a Zen message about getting peace across the world. He doesn’t hit you over the head with the message and it’s actually a long way away from church basement folk music. Certainly this is a sound for anyone that was ever into passive resistance and civil disobedience but as we all know, in the end, you have to fight for peace. More for the Pete Seeger fan than the granola eater, this is more or less a well envisioned take on the gentle side of protest music.
Link to Review

Rich Siegel’s six-year old daughter Emily Gu Siegel created the cover art for her Poet, Musician, Activist and Spiritual Progressive Father’s CD The Way to Peace

Review by Eileen Fleming

Emily’s art work immediately put me in mind of John Lennon who was inspired to write “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” by his son’s artwork–and also this John Lennon print that hangs above my bathtub:

The first listen through of Rich’s twelve songs also put me in mind of Jesus/AKA The Prince of Peace and THE WAY, who began a movement with twelve ordinary men with the message that the One God Loves All People Equally.
Rich’s religious views are “One God=One Love.”

Jesus was born lived and died a Palestinian Jew under a brutal military occupation.

Rich grew up in a Zionist home and lived in Israel before he learned he had been “lied to” about the “original sin” of national Zionism that continues to wreck havoc on the Holy Land.

Rich dedicates his most haunting song, “In Palestine” to the children of Gaza and in particular to Abir Aramin.
“In Palestine” as Rich pleads to God for all of US to STOP the killing, I imagined what a wonderful world it could be IF only this song were sung in every Christian Church throughout America as the faces of the children of Palestine flashed on a screen:

All because of a photo first published by The Florida Catholicin 2000, muy life was irrevocably changed.Photographer Debbie Hill captured three-year-old George [it is his photo that adorns the banner of my website] of Beit Jala, which is less than a five-minute car ride from downtown Bethlehem.

We Are Wide Awake – Eileen fleming

The photo was shot the morning after the Israeli military forces retaliated against a few hopeless militants who had infiltrated George’s neighborhood to snipe across the way into the illegal settlement/colony of Gilo, which lies about a mile as the crow flies from the top of the hill around the corner from George’s home.

The shrapnel that blew apart the wall of George’s bedroom read ‘Made in USA’ and was delivered via American made Apache helicopters.

The second I saw George’s eyes, in that photo, my heart said “DO SOMETHING!”

And that was the moment that I began to wake up from my comfortable Christianity to the brutal military occupation of Palestine and see ALL the children of that troubled land as my children too.

George’s face has adorned the banner of my website since I established it in 2005 after my first of seven trips to the State of Israel and Land of Palestine.

Abir’s face has adorned the left margin of my website ever since I learned that on 16 January 2007, the ten year old was walking with her sister and two friends to buy some sweet treats during a break between classes in the West Bank village of Anata, which is about four miles from Jerusalem.

ABIRWhile standing beside her sister at a kiosk, Abir was shot in the head with a rubber bullet fired from the rifle of a Border Guard soldier who was sitting in his well-armored jeep.

After three days on life support Abir’s struggle ended- but not the struggle for justice her parents and all people of conscience seek-to STOP the KILLING in the Land of Palestine and State of Israel.

In 2007, Avichay Sharon, of Combatants for Peace explained, “Over the past 2 years, the Israeli Border Police and IDF forces have been creating provocations near the school district of Anata [which] has become a part of the daily routine for the children. Ever since construction started on the separation barrier surrounding Anata, the jeeps have been roaming the streets especially near the schools and shooting grenades and tear gas along with rubber bullets.”
Bassam Aramin, Abir’s father and co-founder of Combatants for Peace said, “I’m not going to lose my common sense, my direction, only because I’ve lost my heart, my child. I will do all I can to protect her friends, both Palestinian and Israeli. They are all our children.”

Israeli and Palestinian Children Killed September 29, 2000 – Present
126 Israeli children have been killed by Palestinians and 1,476 Palestinian children have been killed by Israelis since September 29, 2000. (View Sources & More Information)

Chart showing that approximately 12 times more Palestinian children have been killed than Israeli childrenIn March of 2006, I visited Anata and have been tormented by my memories ever since.The thirty-foot high concrete Wall that surrounds the boys high school where 780 Palestinian adolescents, only ‘playground’ is a slab of cement about the square footage of a basket ball court.

A resident refugee informed me that on a daily basis, “The Israeli Occupation Forces show up when the children gather in the morning or after classes. They throw percussion bombs or gas bombs into the school nearly every day! The world is sleeping; the world is hibernating and is allowing this misery to continue.”

A moment later, a teenage boy approached me as I was taking photos and asked me my name and where I was from. I cringed admitting I was American, for “financed with U.S. aid at a cost of $1.5 million per mile, the Israeli wall prevents residents from receiving health care and emergency medical services. In other areas, the barrier separates farmers from their olive groves which have been their families’ sole livelihood for generations.” [Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Jan/Feb. 2007]

On July 9, 2004, the International Court of Justice/ICJ, ruled 14-1 that The Wall was illegal and it must come down and also that compensation should be paid to all who had been affected.

The ICJ Judges also decided 13-2 that signatories to the Geneva Convention were obliged to enforce “compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law” and the U.N. General Assembly also passed a resolution 150-6 supporting the ICJ’s call to dismantle the wall.” [Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 2009]

Less than five minutes by car from Anata, one can enter into the Orwellian Disney Land of lush green grounds called the Pizgat Ze’ev settlement.

All the settlements/colonies in the West Bank are illegal under international law.

I was sick at heart as I traveled through the colony and counted three playgrounds and a swimming pool.

I wondered how many USA tax dollars helped to build them, and outraged over the injustices of Walls and military occupation that American money provides against the indigenous people of that land.

Within fifteen minutes after leaving Anata, as I stood next to a playground in Pizgat Ze’ev, a barrage of gunshots issued from the refugee camp and my guide informed me that the Israeli soldiers were showering the refugees with gunfire and terror- another normal daily occurrence for them.

I lost it completely then and sobbed uncontrollably, as I imagined the Magdalena when she could not find her Lord.
And then I thought of how Jesus cried buckets of tears over Jerusalem when he “saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you had only known what would bring you peace but it is hidden from your eyes.’”- Luke 19:42

Lady Justice, the Roman Goddess of Justice, an allegorical personification of the moral force in judicial systems, is depicted wearing a blindfold to indicate that justice should be meted out objectively, not based in favor of- or against- ethnicity, power, or weakness, but on blind impartiality.

How Do We Teach The Children- and ourselves- The Way to Peace?

“There is no way to peace-peace is the way”-A.J. Muste

But Rich Siegel’s CD offers us some wonderful ways to imagine it as we teach our children through music what a what a wonderful world it should and can be; and “What a Wonderful World” with Gilad Atzom on sax will blow you away and is also another highlight on The Way To Peace.

To order and learn more visit www.richsiegel.com

I am Eileen Fleming for US HOUSE and I approve of all of my messages.
View full review here

Jacques Brel Returns Reviews

Jacques Brel Returns …The Music of Brel, Blau,Shuman and Jouannest en Cabaret The TriadNew York, NY

For Jacques Brel aficionados – and this evening indicated that there’s quite a fan club in New York – Jacques Brel Returns is a must-see evening.  Set in a cabaret with intimacy as the key ingredient, and performers who deliver to the audience, the Belgian actor/troubadour’s fiercely passionate songs are 75 minutes of sardonic, nostalgic, wry humor and piercing emotion.

The show, currently running on selected monthly dates, features highlights from the 2006/2007 Zipper Theatre revival of Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, with a rotating cast.  This performance featured Karen Kohler, Jean Brassard, Tamra Hayden and Ereni Sevasti, with Rich Siegel on piano and vocals.  Siegel provided a compelling opening, in French, of the melodic “Les vieux amants,” and joined Jean Brassard in his amusing adventure of unrequited love for “Madeleine.”  Most of the songs were performed solo and non-stop, mainly in English, with some French or Flemish.  After a brief welcome from one of the producers, Dan Whitten, there were no introductions or talk of Brel.  Brel’s art came through his songs.  A beret, a cape and some flowers were some simple props to help set the moods.

I would have liked more French from the multilingual Kohler and Brassard.  Kohler has a riveting delivery, evident in “If You Go Away” (Rod McKuen’s translation). However, the resonance of her despair and desperation was more indicative of  Brel’s original title, “Ne me quitte pas” (“Don’t Leave Me”), which is entirely different from McKuen’s.  While she included some of the original French lyrics, I was disappointed that the production team did not choose a translation that better fit Kohler’s emotional delivery or, better yet, sing it all in French, which I know she can do beautifully.

Another standout, Tamra Hayden, is someone to watch, delivering two of Brel’s most sentimental songs in English: “Sons of …” (“Fils de….”), with its reminder that, “All were children like your own,” and “Old Folks” (“Les vieux”).   Each was presented as distinctly and sharply as a snapshot.  The fourth vocalist, Ereni Sevasti, with a sweet soprano voice, was surprisingly powerful with “My Death” (“Le Mort”).  As two staggering drunks, Brassard and Kohler ridiculed “The Middle Class” (“The middle class are just like pigs/ The fatter they get, the less they regret”).  No one ever praised Brel for his tact.

The ensemble joined for the dizzying ride on a “Carousel,” a translation of Brel’s “La valse a mille temps.” The group ended with Brel’s 1956 commercial breakthrough hit, “If We Only Have Love” (“Quand on n’a pas que l’amour”).
For Jacques Brel, love was his driving force—love of life, a person, peace, and the Belgian flat lands.  His songs illustrate this, whatever the language, and these performers deliver with passion and sensibility.

Shows continue at The Triad on Nov. 3, Nov. 17, Dec. 1, Dec. 15 all shows at 8 pm and they are hoping for a weekly run after the New Year.

Elizabeth Ahlfors, Cabaret Scenes, October 13, 2010
www.cabaretscenes.org

Richard Skipper, 'At Last' Reviews

A review of last night’s show: Yesterday, May 31st, I had the distinct pleasure to enjoy a thoroughly stunning evening of entertainment out-on-the-town in historic Asbury Park near my new home of Red Bank, NJ. The star attraction, Richard Skipper, beloved international performer best known for his spot-on and celebrity approved, loving portrayal of the incomparable Carol Channing, performing his new, ‘all-male’ review, ‘Richard Skipper: At Last’. The show was produced as a benefit for ReVision Theatre of Asbury Park ­ a young professional company launched five years ago with Richard’s help (Richard starred in their first large-scale production, ‘Hello, Dolly!’, as America’s favorite musical matchmaker, Dolly Levi, herself!)

‘Richard Skipper: At Last’ is Richard in his all new stage persona…himself. Off have come the wig and gown but the sparkle and energy remain; offering the audience a rare musical treat. Richard shares his fateful, life-affirming journey to the stage ­ from South Carolinian tobacco farmer’s son to adolescent stage hopeful, from starry-eyed, new New Yorker to Toast of the Town. Along the way, the audience gets an intimate look into a life well lived interspersed with polished-off Broadway treasures, performed by a personality that gets the crowd moving, stirs them deeply, and keeps them wanting more.

Thanks must be given to Revision Theatre for bring this sparkling stage offering to a new audience of music lovers and kudos to Richard Skipper and brilliant Musical Director, Rich Siegel, for creating an evening that show-people and people who love a great show alike will want to enjoy again and again. – www.ThomasRyanWard.com
See review here

Carla DelVillaggio as Barbara Streisand Reviews

Carla DelVillaggio -By Robert Windeler
“Streisand: The Greatest Star”, Laurie Beechman Theatre  –  July 11, 18, 25

Carla DelVillaggio as Streisand:
The Greatest StarIf you, like me, long ago grew tired of men in drag lip-synching to Barbra Streisand records and calling that an impersonation, have I got a girl for you. A Real Live Girl.

Carla DelVillaggio, an RLG based in Florida, made her New York debut this month in a tri-partite show about Streisand, and she was sensational. Not only can DelVillaggio look enough like Streisand, up to her nose and wig, to pull it off, she has the mannerisms and accent down pat. She uses Barbra’s arrangements and even some of her dresses, to the point that if the star were dead, you’d swear DelVillaggio was channeling her. (Don’t expect any reinterpretation or insight—that’s hardly the point of this tribute.) And anyone who can sing the wide-ranging Streisand songbook this well certainly has a terrific voice of her own. I can’t wait to see her in a cabaret as herself.

It takes three sets of almost two hours apiece (with intermission) to cover Streisand’s 50-year career with any sense of completeness. Each of DelVillaggio’s three evenings had a theme. The first, subtitled “Barbra: The Way She Was,” was concentrated solidly in the 1960s, when Streisand was in her 20s and at her most natural and charming.

Appropriately, DelVillaggio’s only accompaniment for this segment was the subtle piano of Rich Siegel. Their satisfying collaborations included faithful recreations of such early Streisand chestnuts as “Second Hand Rose” (James F. Hanley, Grant Clarke), Fred Fisher and Billy Rose’s “I’d Rather Be Blue Over You (Than Be Happy with Somebody Else),” “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” (Burton Lane, Alan Jay Lerner), and Milton Schafer and Ira Levin’s “He Touched Me.”

The second evening, “Streisand Songbird: Memories,” was largely devoted to her disparate and sometimes debatable output in the 1970s and 80s, including “The Way We Were” (Marvin Hamlisch, Alan and Marilyn Bergman), “Evergreen” (the Oscar-winning melody she wrote with Paul Williams lyrics for her version of A Star Is Born), “Stoney End” (Laura Nyro), “Papa, Can You Hear Me?” from Yentl (Michel Legrand, the Bergmans), and Bruce Roberts and Paul Jabara’s “No More Tears (Enough is Enough),” her 1979 hit duet with Donna Summer. For this middle section of the triad, which I did not see, pianist Rich Siegel was joined by Eliot Zigmund on drums and Bob Renino on bass. Fortunately, this trio remained in place to back up week three, with rich results.

“Hello Gorgeous! Barbra—Back to Broadway,” the finale set, found “Barbra” at age 70, looking back on her own Main Stem career (with a couple of movie versions thrown in) and her recordings of musical theatre songs made famous by others. DelVillaggio sang three Stephen Sondheim songs: “Send in the Clowns”; “Children Will Listen” as part of a medley with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” from South Pacific; and “Somewhere” (Leonard Bernstein, Sondheim, from West Side Story). She reached way back to her own debut showstopper, Harold Rome’s “Miss Marmelstein” from I Can Get it For You Wholesale, and even further back to her favorite audition song, “Sleepin’ Bee” (Harold Arlen, Truman Capote, from House of Flowers). Abetted by her backup trio, a Hello Dolly! (Jerry Herman) medley and “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from Funny Girl (Jule Styne, Bob Merrill) were particular knockouts. Enough audience members knew “Miss Marmelstein” well enough from the 1962 musical to chime in with the echo “Miss Marmelstein”s, uninvited and at the appropriate times, but not enough people remembered it well enough to make it quite the show-stopper for Carla it had been for Barbra.

“Don’t Rain on My Parade” was one of four selections from Funny Girl (stage or screen version) to appear in all three evenings. The others were the title song from the movie; the Fanny Brice signature song that was interpolated into the film, “My Man” (Channing Pollock, Maurice Yvain, Albert Willemetz, Jacques Charles); and, of course, “People.” These were all as astonishingly affecting as Streisand’s own renditions. Also included in all three sets was a funny send-up of the 1964 Streisand/Judy Garland television duet of Milton Ager and Jack Yellen’s “Happy Days Are Here Again” and “Get Happy” (Harold Arlen, Ted Koehler), with “Barbra” singing live and “Judy” chiming in from a screen above the stage. The many audience members who had seen two or even all three of the evenings didn’t seem to mind these reprises, and certainly neither did I.

DelVillaggio here was self-directed, and sometimes her between-songs chat seemed a little silly, and occasionally redundant. A director might tighten that a bit for future engagements. Also, while the 15-minute intermission in each evening may be understandable (the Beechman wants to sell more drinks and food and DelVaggio wants to change clothes), it does break the rhythm of what is, after all, a cabaret act and not a theatrical piece. Still, it’s a pleasure to say “Hello, Carla,” and please hurry back here where you belong: on a New York nightclub stage.

Storied Bon Soir Niterie Reopens with Turn by Talented Faux-Barbra
by Mark Dundas Wood, Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Simply Showbiz
The Bon Soir, back in its heyday.

In Intimate Nights, his 1991 book on the history of New York cabaret, writer James Gavin described the celebrated (some would say notorious) Bon Soir nightclub:

“[The] fabled café opened on September 6, 1949, in a basement on 40 West 8th Street in Greenwich Village. Much of the Bon Soir’s appeal came from its out-of-the-way, almost illicit feeling. A walk down thirty-one steps led to a square black room owned and run by the Mafia, where blacks and whites, gays and straights mingled without a trace of tension. On one side of the room was a gay bar. Those seeking a highbrow atmosphere had to look elsewhere.”
Among the entertainers who performed at the plaster-walled club were Phyllis Diller, Kaye Ballard, Alice Ghostley, and Larry Storch. But the Bon Soir is best remembered for the early performances of Barbra Streisand between 1960 and 1962. The nightclub closed in 1967, after hobbling along with performances by mediocre Borscht Belt-style performers. Streisand, meanwhile, had moved uptown to Broadway—en route to Malibu.

Last week, Simply-Showbiz.com reported that Streisand fans had been thrown for a loop with reports that the Bon Soir was reopening and that Barbra Streisand herself would be singing there on Monday, June 4. The news was only partly true. The “square black room” that Gavin described has in fact been refurbished. It’s part of the new locale for a club called The Pink Elephant. But the woman who reopened the room was not Streisand but rather a young singer named Carla DelVillaggio, who impersonates the mega-diva.

“Je m’appelle Carla.”

I attended the second show on Monday thanks to an invitation extended to Sinply-Showbiz.com by the show’s producer, Chip Duckett. My companion and I descended a dizzyingly lit staircase down to a small bar area where customers drank a grapefruit-based concoction called—what else?—a Bon Soir. These beverages were served by tall, elegant and stunningly beautiful young women.

Just before 9:30 audience members were ushered into the refurbished room. The bright, elephant-pink tablecloths on the small tables and the soft pink lights projected on the bottles behind the bar may have suggested the 1960s, but a 1970s influence was also evident, most notably in the form of a DJ booth and a large Deco-ish fixture that seemed to be a modified disco ball.

The following day I spoke with Duckett, who told me that—at least for now—the Bon Soir will function as a cabaret only on certain nights (notably, Mondays) and that the audiences for its shows will mostly be invited guests. There won’t be long engagements by headliners. Instead, for the time being, the space will feature special one-off events.
As for Carla DelVillaggio, she is a slight young woman with more than a passing resemblance to Streisand. On Monday she dressed in a recreation of Streisand’s ultramarine-blue sailor dress, accented with a bright red bow. DelVillaggio has the Barbra shrug down pat, and is especially adept at recreating the infectious Barbra giggle. She proved deft also at coping with shouted comments from a raucous, liquor-lubed audience–including one notably crude remark having to do with Funny Girl composer Jule Styne.

DelVillaggio sang a string of early songs from the Streisand repertoire, including “Have I Stayed Too Long at the Fair?” and “When Sunny Gets Blue” (the latter featuring a lovely solo turn by pianist Rich Siegel). DelVillaggio demonstrated a spooky ability to channel the icon—at times you would swear you were seeing a hologram of a teenage Streisand. DelVillaggio even captured the star’s particular way of narrowing her eyes while singing, during moments of intense concentration.

Did she sound like Streisand? Yes. When she talked, that is. DelVillaggio has a pleasant and expressive singing voice. But nobody has ever quite been able to capture the peculiarly raw yet crystalline sound of Streisand at 19 or 20—not even the more seasoned Streisand herself at 33 or 34. But that doesn’t mean the show wasn’t a good one. It was highly entertaining, and people seemed to go away happy. Duckett bubbled with excitement.

The follow-up? Next Monday at the Bon Soir will be a concert (and EP release celebration) for Broadway performer Matt Doyle of Broadway’s Spring Awakening. And in July DelVilaggio will have an engagement at the Laurie Beechman Theater in midtown Manhattan, performing three different programs of Streisand music.